Senate Democrats Guarded on John Roberts for Supreme Court

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 20, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 20, 2005

Washington, DC ( — Senate Democrats are guarded in their reaction to President Bush’s selection of appeals court judge John Roberts for the U.S. Supreme Court. While they could launch a filibuster that could stall his nomination, leading Democrats mostly indicated they wanted to wait before saying whether they would oppose Bush’s pick.

"The president has chosen someone with suitable legal credentials, but that is not the end of our inquiry," Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said Tuesday.

"The nominee will have an opportunity to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee and make his case to the American people," Reid added. "I will not pre-judge this nomination. I look forward to learning more about Judge Roberts."

Echoing the call for a thorough examination of his views, leading Bush judicial critic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York said Robert’s philosophy "will affect a generation of Americans, and it is his obligation during the nomination process to let the American people know those views."

Other top Democrats were more outspoken in condemning Roberts as too conservative for the high court.

"The president had an opportunity to unite the country with his Supreme Court nomination, to nominate an individual in the image of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor," number two Democrat, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin said. "Instead, by putting forward John Roberts’ name, President Bush has chosen a more controversial nominee and guaranteed a more controversial confirmation process."

Roberts’ fate may lie in the hands of 14 senators who struck a deal on Bush’s appeals court picks earlier this year. They allowed a handful to receive votes in exchange for not changing Senate rules to stop filibusters on court nominees.

Arizona Sen. John McCain, one of the seven Republicans involved, said he expects the group to meet on Tuesday or Wednesday to discuss Roberts.

The group determined that judicial picks will not be filibustered unless in "extraordinary circumstances." Members of the Senate are already debating what that means.

Democrat Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut said Roberts was "in the ballpark" of nominees who would avoid a filibuster.

Senator Lyndsey Graham of South Carolina, another Republican in the dealmaking group, also thinks Roberts doesn’t fall under the "extraordinary circumstance" category. He said Roberts’ views on issues are similar to appeals court judges that were approved under the agreement.

But, Senator Barbara Boxer said Roberts was such a circumstances because of his pro-life position against abortion.

"I believe it’s an extraordinary circumstance when these rights disappear," the California Democrat said.

One legislative leader for a pro-life group said Democrats will be lobbied by abortion advocacy groups to filibuster Roberts because of his pro-life views.

“Liberal pressure groups will insist that Senate Democrats filibuster against Judge Roberts, unless he pledges in advance to vote against allowing elected legislators to place meaningful limits on abortion," said NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson. "Millions of Americans will be watching to see if the Democratic senators bow to these demands."

Another point of contention will be how far the Senate Judiciary Committee will probe into Roberts’ views on abortion.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter says the panel will ask him about his judicial philosophy but not how he would rule on potential Supreme Court cases.

But Durbin says Democrats will demand "straight answers" from Roberts on abortion.